Discover more from Write For California
Washington Shoots the Nets Off in Win Over Cal Men's Basketball
Huskies offense goes off in 84-63 blowout win
To my mind there’s one stat that mattered in this game, that explained why a game that should have been close was very, very not.
It wasn’t rebounding (Cal was a touch better) or turnovers (Washington was a touch better) or earning free throws (Cal was a touch better) or two point shooting (Washington was a touch better).
Washington, a team shooting 30.3% from three entering the game, made an absurd 12 of 23. Cal, a team shooting 33.5% from three entering the game, made a miserable 5-22. Washington was +21 solely from three point shooting, and won by 21 points. How ‘bout that?
Do I think this was a defensive failure? Not really. It would be a reasonably sound defensive strategy to maybe encourage UW to shoot 3s, because they’re bad at it, but I didn’t get the sense that Cal played defense any different than usual. And for whatever it’s worth, Cal’s three point defense has been excellent this year. They had been holding opponents to 30% shooting from deep, and doing even better in Pac-12 play.
So a BAD three point shooting team faced a good 3 point defense on the road, took a bunch of threes, and nailed more than half of them. Sometimes God likes you, sometimes God hates you, sometimes you’re Cal basketball and Wyking Jones is sitting on the bench and you know that God hates you forever.
In short, this was one of the unluckiest games I’ve watched in quite some time. Beyond the absurd three point shooting, UW also hit a number of really tough contested 2s. Some of that was Terrell Brown playing like the all-conference player he’s been all year long, but some of it was UW just happening to make plays against Cal.
Maybe you don’t like me chalking this game up to bad luck and moving on. I’m mostly talking about bad luck relative to expectations. It’s true that Cal isn’t good enough to win games when their opponents get really hot. Cal canT dominate a game via rebounding, can’t change a game by forcing a bunch of turnovers, can’t relentlessly drive the ball inside to tilt the game in their favor. But these are things we already knew. And it was weird shooting randomness that turned what could have been a back-and-forth coin flip against a similarly flawed team into a blowout defeat.
Of course, if you watched the game, that explanation probably isn’t much comfort. Washington went on a 23-9 run to start the 2nd half fueled largely by a bunch of 3s, and that turned a maybe competitive game into a blowout that led Mark Fox to play his bench for the rest of the game. Makale Foreman*, Obinna Anyanwu, Jared Hyder, and Marsalis Roberson all played the final 10 minutes of the game, and Dimitrios Klonaras subbed in to play the final 8:31. That meant that Anyanwu and Roberson played their season high in minutes and Klonaras got his first playing time since early December.
I don’t know if it was to give some rest and avoid injury, or to send some sort of message to his starters, or what. There wasn’t a ton of interesting things to pick out from that stretch because it didn’t exactly feel like high intensity basketball, but Anyanwu was active on offense and had some nice moments around the basket making hustle plays.
*All season long we’re hearing announces say that Makale’s minutes are limited due to a persistent foot injury, but then he plays the last 10 minutes of a blowout game? I’m confused. I guess I can hope he’s nearing 100%?
It kills me to even have to bring it up, but:
Last year, Grant Anticevich brought a whole bunch of positives to the court. In addition to his solid-but-unspectacular defense and defensive rebounding, he brought solid jump shooting against everybody on the schedule.
And this year, in Pac-12 play, his jump shot has abandoned him. 16% from three against conference opponents, while attempting nearly 4 threes/game. I can’t tell if you it’s because he’s forcing shots because there’s nobody else to take them, or if there’s something off on his form, or if it’s just the mother of all random cold streaks, but it’s really damaging for an offense with limited options. More than that, it hurts to watch a hard working player who has been the source of some of the few bright spots over the last few years play out his final year against this backdrop.
With eight games left, Kenpom predicts another 2.91 wins left on the regular season schedule. That would make a 3-5 stretch run and a final Pac-12 record of 5-15 the most likely outcome. If you’re feeling pessimistic thanks to the current 9 game losing streak, you can be comforted by the fact that games against deeply struggling OSU, Colorado, Utah, and ASU remain on the schedule. The Beavers are still solid favorites to finish last (#extendTinkle), which makes next Wednesday’s game in Corvallis critical. If Cal loses that game, another season without a road win looms as a distinct possibility.
But between now and then is a home game against a hot Washington State team. I have a hard time seeing how Cal can stay close unless Andre Kelly gets that boot off and can somehow play in two days.